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Comic-Con 2011 Preview: TV

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Spartacus: Vengeance

Starring Liam McIntyre, Lucy Lawless, Manu Bennett

Tragedy plays a big part in Starz’s Spartacus franchise, but the cast and crew dealt with a real-life dose of it when the actor playing Spartacus himself, Andy Whitfield, had to bow out of the gladiator series after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. With Whitfield’s blessing to carry on, the producers recast the title character. ”It’s a role you wish wasn’t there, because obviously Andy did such an amazing job,” says new Spartacus Liam McIntyre, who is looking to put his own stamp on the part. ”Starz wants me to make Spartacus my own. It’s not about copying Andy or anything, because you can’t do that.”

Executive producer Steven S. DeKnight promises lots of shocking developments in the new season (titled Spartacus: Vengeance), including the return of Lucy Lawless’ Lucretia, last seen being stabbed (seemingly to death) in her pregnant belly. ”The astute observer will notice that at the end of the first season, she is still twitching,” DeKnight notes. ”She won’t just magically reappear. It will be a few episodes before you know exactly what happened.” (Starz) January 2012

The Secret Circle

Starring Britt Robertson, Thomas Dekker

In The CW’s latest supernatural drama, orphaned Cassie (Britt Robertson) moves in with her grandmother in Chance Harbor, Wash., and learns she’s a teen witch destined to bind powers with five others to complete a new generation of the Secret Circle. ”These are six kids who normally wouldn’t be friends forced to come together and fight a greater evil, and also battle the evil within themselves,” says exec producer Kevin Williamson. ”It’s not as easy as they think. They can’t just do a spell and make something happen. There’s consequences, which is always the fun part.” Questions abound: What is the history of the Circle? What badness occurred 16 years ago, and is it about to occur again? What are two of the parents (Gale Harold and Natasha Henstridge) plotting? ”It’s one of those shows where you just don’t know,” Williamson says. ”Maybe the person you don’t trust is the person you should be trusting.” (The CW) Sept. 15, 2011

Person of Interest

Starring Jim Caviezel, Michael Emerson

Here’s a show that may be worth placing on your watch list: In this foreboding, Big Brotherly drama exec-produced by J.J. Abrams and Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight), Lost‘s Michael Emerson plays an enigmatic billionaire — ”a good guy, but his motives aren’t clear,” Emerson offers — who has created a machine that can predict who will commit a crime or be the victim of one. Armed with this intel, he recruits a troubled ex-CIA agent (The Passion of the Christ‘s Jim Caviezel) to help prevent impending offenses. ”The big themes are: What happens to people who have tools of unimaginable power? What ethics are they held to?” Emerson says. ”In a way, they are adversaries for a government that has similar tools, and similar ethical dilemmas. It’s use and abuse of power.” (CBS) Sept. 22, 2011

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Ringer

Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ioan Gruffudd, Kristoffer Polaha

It’s been eight years since Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar bid adieu to the show that made her an icon to focus on making movies. After giving birth to her daughter in 2009, she began looking for a TV project that could keep her in Los Angeles, where she makes her home with husband Freddie Prinze Jr. ”At the same time,” says Gellar, 34, ”I was up against this wall: What do you do after Buffy?” The answer isn’t short on ambition. On Ringer, Gellar plays twin sisters: Bridget, an ex-stripper on the run from the Mob, and Siobhan, a high-society snoot with a resentful husband (Ioan Gruffudd), a possessive lover (Kristoffer Polaha), and many secrets. When Siobhan goes missing, Bridget tries to escape her troubles by taking over her sister’s identity. Instead, both their lives become more complex. ”It encompasses everything I want, professionally and personally,” says Gellar, adding that she enjoys playing opposite herself quite a bit. ”My costar? Always knows her lines, always hits her marks, and never gives me attitude. Genius! Every actor should try it.” (The CW) Sept. 13, 2011

Terra Nova

Starring Jason O’Mara, Stephen Lang

Fox’s long-awaited sci-fi spectacular from exec producer Steven Spielberg was supposed to make its Comic-Con debut last year, but the network scrapped a panel because it had nothing to show. Now, with the pilot (almost) in the can and production on a 13-episode first season under way in Australia, Terra Nova is ready for its geek close-up. The story begins in 2149, with Earth suffering major environmental degradation. While the world’s best scientists haven’t found a way to end pollution, they have developed the means to travel 85 million years into the past so humankind can start over during the time of the dinosaurs. Avatar‘s Stephen Lang plays a military honcho tasked with defending Terra Nova from both T. rexes and a rebellious faction of colonists. Jason O’Mara (Life on Mars) is an ex-cop trying to mend his fractured family and survive the rigors of his brave new world. ”It’s a story about second chances,” says exec producer René Echevarria of the survival drama. Early stories will focus on Terra Nova’s politics and the colony’s first murder. Alas, no Sleestaks in this gritty Land of the Lost. ”Maybe in season 3,” Echevarria jokes. (Fox) Sept. 26, 2011

Game of Thrones

Starring Peter Dinklage, Emilia Clarke

Shows don’t come more Comic-Con-ready than Game of Thrones. The grown-up fantasy drama has sword fights, kinky sex, castles, dragons, and even its own made-up language (take that, Klingons!). Exec producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are prepping production on season 2 in Belfast, where they’re casting several new characters (such as the late king’s brother Stannis Baratheon, along with his sorceress Melisandre) and trying to figure out how to adapt the ambitious second novel (A Clash of Kings) in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series on a TV budget — including a fiery climactic clash on a fleet of ships. ”We have dragons, we have the direwolves growing, we have massive battles,” Benioff says. ”It’s going to be a season of tough choices.” (HBO) 2012

Alcatraz

Starring Sarah Jones, Sam Neill, Jorge Garcia

This time, the goal is to keep people on the island. In Fox’s midseason drama from the team behind Lost (exec producers J.J. Abrams, Elizabeth Sarnoff, Bryan Burk, and Jack Bender), hundreds of the country’s worst criminals vanished from the infamous prison 48 years ago and are now reappearing and wreaking havoc in modern-day San Francisco. Jorge Garcia’s island expert teams with police detective Sarah Jones to track down the baddies. ”There’s three levels of storytelling — we’re going into the past and seeing the prison in its heyday, bringing those characters into the present in a crime procedural, and then there’s the overall mythology,” says Sarnoff, who plans to screen the entire pilot at Comic-Con in a move that Lost famously pioneered in 2004. If only Jack and Kate had had access to a ferry! (Fox) Early 2012

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The Walking Dead

Starring Andrew Lincoln, Sarah Wayne Callies

Kaboom! That wasn’t just the sound of exploding ratings for AMC’s zombie drama, but also the noise of the blown-up Centers for Disease Control at the end of season 1 — a noise that has now attracted a horde of zombies as the action picks up just seconds later at the start of season 2. ”They’re kind of screwed,” says exec producer Robert Kirkman of our still-living heroes. For those who make it out of Atlanta alive, a new potential home awaits on the farm of Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), a character from Kirkman’s comic-book series on which the show is based. Does that mean we might also see popular comic characters like the ruthless Governor and katana-sword-wielding Michonne in season 2? ”The Governor, definitely not,” Kirkman says. ”Michonne? You know, we’ll see.” (Cagey!) Either way, expect a different look in season 2. ”The first season was very urban,” Kirkman notes. ”The second season is out in the woods, and it’s going to be much different visually. It’s going to be creepier. We’re going to be taking the setting of, like, an Andrew Wyeth painting and throwing zombies into it. I think it’ll be a really cool change of pace for the show.” (AMC) October 2011

Grimm

Starring David Giuntoli, Russell Hornsby, Silas Weir Mitchell

This new NBC series is inspired by classic fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. But of course it’s not quite that simple. In this world, the fairy tales aren’t tales — here, for example, the big bad wolf is a creature disguised as a human. One of the few people who can see the beasts for what they truly are is homicide detective Nick Burkhardt (David Giuntoli), part of an elite group of hunters known simply as Grimms who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural. ”We want to do something that looks like a police procedural but is a little different,” explains Jim Kouf, who exec-produces the series with fellow Angel alum David Greenwalt. ”Nick is ‘solving’ these fairy tales every week.” (NBC) Oct. 21, 2011

Once Upon a Time

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Robert Carlyle, Lana Parrilla

Like NBC’s Grimm, ABC’s Once Upon a Time is focused on fairy tales. But in this particular yarn, characters such as Snow White and Rumpelstiltskin straddle two dimensions: One is the magical world that was created in the books, and the other is the odd New England town of Storybrooke, where the classic figures live without realizing their true identities. It’s a young Storybrooke resident, Henry (Jared Gilmore), who puts it all together and begins a quest to uncover the truth about the characters and the stories behind them. The bulk of the show will be sinking into that — dare we say it? — backstory and mythology. ”We’re not retelling fairy tales; it’s things you never knew,” exec producer Adam Horowitz says. ”How did Jiminy Cricket become a cricket? How did Grumpy become grumpy? It’s a show about waking people up to who they really are.” (ABC) Oct. 23, 2011

More Returning Faves

The Big Bang Theory

Wedding bells in geek land? Co-creator Bill Prady says someone may walk down the aisle come spring. But if you’re thinking Penny (Kaley Cuoco) and Leonard (Johnny Galecki) — think again! Don’t forget that Howard (Simon Helberg) proposed to Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) last season. ”I don’t see anything standing in the way of them getting married,” Prady says. (CBS) Sept. 22, 2011

Dexter

After a season in which Dexter (Michael C. Hall) was consumed by his own humanity, the ol’ killing machine is revving back up. ”We jump ahead a year, so we begin with Dexter in a very strong, centered, focused place,” notes exec producer Scott Buck. ”He’s left a lot of the darkness from the previous season behind.” A special trailer for season 6 — which also features Edward James Olmos, Colin Hanks, Mos Def, and a chilling message-sending murderer — debuts at Comic-Con. (Showtime) Fall 2011

Fringe

Did Peter’s (Joshua Jackson) time-travel heroics in the season 3 finale keep alive both his true love, Olivia (Anna Torv), and his demented daddy, Walter (John Noble)? And did he really erase himself from reality in the process? Exec producers Jeff Pinkner and J.H. Wyman are keeping mum on the answers. Asked for just two words about season 4, Pinkner offers ”continuance” and Wyman volunteers ”consequences.” More teases are promised at their annual Comic-Con panel. ”Brush up on your Fringe trivia,” Pinkner advises attendees. ”There will be prizes.” (Fox) Sept. 23, 2011

Glee

Gleeks can expect new voices to fill the McKinley High hallways in season 3, including the winner of Oxygen’s The Glee Project. And Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) will run for political office in her quest for world domination. ”The glee club is small potatoes,” explains exec producer Ryan Murphy. ”She should be going after the Obama administration. She should be going after Sarah Palin. Her enemy should be the U.S. government.” (Fox) Sept. 20, 2011

The Vampire Diaries

Season 3 is about leveling the playing field between Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Paul Wesley), who’s now wingman for Klaus (Joseph Morgan). ”Stefan has been the saint, and Damon has been the sinner. Now it’s about each of them being a little bit of both,” says exec producer Julie Plec. ”If Elena [Nina Dobrev] is able to still love Stefan when all is said and done, then is it also possible that she could ultimately feel the same way about Damon?” (The CW) Sept. 15, 2011

Written By Mandi Bierly, Anthony Breznican, Clark Collis, James Hibberd, Jeff Jensen, Lynette Rice, Dalton Ross, Josh Rottenberg, Dan Snierson, Tim Stack, Tanner Stransky, Benjamin Svetkey, Sara Vilkomerson, and John Young

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